Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – On the Waterfront (1954)

Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb & Eva Marie Saint

Rating 8/10

There’s something about mob films that both intrigues and repulses me. If it were all fictional, then ok, cool story. But the fact that these heartless mobsters and their cruel acts were real, well, that’s just horrific.

On the Waterfront is all about the Mafia, New York style. In fact it is New Jersey. The mob has control of ships going in and out of port. The crime commission has been set up to tackle the corruption and intimidation that has run rampant for many moons. People are scared silent. And if one does talk, well, you know, (finger across throat motion).

Terry Malloy (Brando) is an ex-fighter who is now owned by the mob, thanks to his older brother, Charley (Rod Steiger). Naive Terry is used to lure Joey Doyle (Ben Wagner) to his untimely death, falling off the roof of his building. And Tezza thought that the mob boys were just going to have a firm word with Joey about his dealings with the Police. Tisk, tisk. After Joey’s demise, Terry meets his sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint) who is home from her convent school. She, too, is naive but grief stricken over the death of her beloved brother and sets out to find those responsible, with the help of the local priest.

Terry and Edie fall deeply in love and the truth about Terry’s involvement in Joey’s demise surfaces. The drama builds, people are man-handled, the gritty reality of dock life is propelled into the limelight by one of the biggest court cases of its time. Terry testifies and stands up to the mob in a powerful scene, inspiring the men around him to do the same.

This is a justice film. It’s about the downtrodden finding their power and their voice. Terry himself is a victim of this crime wave though he has been a part of it. Two years before On the Waterfront Director Elia Kazan’s testified against friends in Communist Party to the House of UnAmerican Activities. This film provided Kazan with an opportunity to vindicate squealing on his mates. The real basis of the movie, however, was Pulitzer Prize recipient Malcolm Johnston’s series in the New York Sun called Crime on the Waterfront. This was all about the real mob and the corrupt dealings on the waterfront, pretty much what the film covers.

This is such a rich film and deserving of the Oscar. Brando is perfect as the simultaneously naive and tough Terry. His look, his voice, his James Dean-ness make him believable and loveable. I loved Eva Marie Saint. Her beauty and innocence complemented Brando perfectly. There are rousing speeches in here that will make your arm hairs stand up: Father Barry’s (Malden) and Terry’s … simply inspiring.

This is a must-see film if you confess to being a movie buff. It is both and education and entertainment! See it, I dare you.

On the Waterfront Trivia:

  • Budget – $910,000
  • Kazan meant for this film to be a response to foe, Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, who was critical of Kazan testifying against his mates.
  • Brando initially rejected the script (though he hadn’t even read it) and Frank Sinatra was due to play the part of Terry.
  • In the cab scene there are blinds in the window as Producer Sam Spiegel forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment! Ooops.
  • During filming, Brando only worked 4 days at a time so he could go to counselling. His mum had recently died and he had to deal with parental issues. Kinda makes him human doesn’t it?
  • Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor for this film but later lost (one way or another) it! The statutte later turned up at a London auction house.
  • Brando researched the role by hanging out with a young man (Al Lettieri) who knew Mafia people! He later appeared in two of Brando’s films: The Night of the Following Day (1968) and The Godfather (1972).

Now for something completely different…. Marty starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. Let us know what you think!


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